Review Summary: God, can you please hurry and find me? / I wasn't sure if we could be friends
Is it possible to really understand Untrue
without first considering its origins? The idea is a tough pill to swallow, because this record isn’t just one whose lineage you can connect to the city and its dense sprawl if you choose
to. Doing so has the existential weight of admitting that the earth just may be round- technically a valid point, but also missing the point entirely. In the case of Untrue
, it IS the city- embodied in clattering percussion, haunting vocal samples and otherworldly ambiance. It’s music that says all the important things about urban life- it acknowledges that the city is a hub for people of all sorts as much as it warns of the deep and unshakable loneliness that comes from within it. That’s why it’s easy to initially be turned off by this record, because it tells a grim story of urban life that’s unnerving at first. The album relays the city’s accompanying desolation and paranoia before it sheds light on it; Untrue
acknowledges it can be a pretty ugly place before it concedes that the city can be unendingly beautiful. Or maybe that the cityscape’s beauty comes from its indifference to its residents- perhaps each person is no more entitled to anything in the urban sprawl than a stray dog scavenging alleyways by moonlight.
The city is a place of opportunity, sure, but also of misfortune- robbings and shootings, those things that happen more with larger populaces of people. This danger is what keeps a narrative like Untrue
alive- it sounds like that heartless place everyone drives past, that rough part of town nobody goes to anymore. Oh, and how each tune here has a brilliant depth to it, coming alive with hammering drums and being fleshed out via vocal samples- many of which sound like they could’ve easily been pulled off the streets and into the recording studio. The vocal samples are mostly brief melodic hooks, repeated indefinitely to get the message across. Many of them contain distraught lyrics- and if the words aren’t, then the delivery is. These samples, as short as they are, are repeated and drilled into the listener’s mind, eventually becoming a part of the person’s subconscious. It’d be difficult to find a true fan of this album that can’t recall that heartbreaking hook at the core of the eponymous track- and if such a person exists, it’s time to ask them what the hell has been distracting them this whole time. Burial digs deep into the soul of city culture for such samples, and he uproots sentimental phrases that, in one fell swoop, break every single listener's heart.
This thing's lyrics are heartbreaking, but the music is perhaps even gloomier until “Shell of Light” comes around. The song recollects the very idea of warmth for the listener, imagery easily forgotten in an album as sonically frigid as this. Its effect is comparable to a concert in the heart of the city, where the crowd gathers as one cohesive unit- partially because the outdoors is so damned cold, sure, but it's really all about that communal experience within the venue. The artist onstage, through his ground-shaking bass manipulations and ethereal vocal samples, creates a shelter for his listeners, and long after the venue’s doors close does that memory remain with all attendants. This is what Will Bevan’s songcraft has become- an antidote to the perpetual fog that hangs over London. Like a vaccine, it’s made of the same stuff its recipient is hoping to ward off. And it truly came to light in the form of Untrue
, only to be expanded upon throughout the rest of Burial’s discography.